The Tuskegee Syphilis study was one of the most notorious biomedical experiments in U.S. history. In 1972, forty years ago, Jean Heller of the Washington Evening Star wrote in front page news “Syphilis Patients Died Untreated” making the forty-year experiment public knowledge and bringing shame to public health for the conspiracy.
600 poor black male sharecroppers, 399 with syphilis and 201 without from Macon County, Alabama were enrolled between 1932 and 1972, but never diagnosed or treated. The victims’ families had never been given an official U.S. apology – until Former President Clinton issued a public government apology first in May, 1997, 15 years ago.
Those with syphilis were never diagnosed and never treated. An official penicillin cure was established by 1947, but none of the men were given the anticdote. Those that asked for it were given placebos. The men were told they had “bad blood” which might include syphilis, anemia and fatigue. For agreeing to participate in the study, the men were given free medical exams, free meals and free burial insurance but autopsies were required. Most of them wouldn’t be alive to enjoy the incentives.